Donald MacNaughton changed the way Thomas Frist Jr., M.D., thought about the company he and his father, Thomas Frist Sr., M.D., founded in 1968.
Hospital Corporation of America hired MacNaughton as chairman and CEO in 1978. The idea was for the experienced MacNaughton, who had been president, CEO and chairman of Prudential Financial, to prepare the younger Frist to take over the reins.
MacNaughton told Frist that it wasn't his company, Frist said in an interview. It was a public company, and it had to have as its mission to serve, or else the company could vanish. "Lo and behold, that was a good lesson," Frist said, "because that's almost what happened to Columbia/HCA years later."
MacNaughton, who served on HCA's board as recently as 1998, died Nov. 3. He was 85.
Besides serving as a mentor to Frist, MacNaughton formed a connection between his old stomping grounds, the world of New York finance, and his endeavor in the Southeast, Frist said. "He brought immense credibility not only to HCA but to a fledgling new industry- investor-owned hospitals," Frist said. "He brought credibility to Nashville, too."
When Frist started his first stint as CEO in 1981, MacNaughton remained the company's chairman, then stepped aside when Frist added that title in 1985. MacNaughton left the board in 1988, when he agreed to become chairman of the executive committee of HCA spinoff HealthTrust, Nashville. MacNaughton served on HealthTrust's board until it was acquired by what was then known as Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. in April 1995. He served on Columbia/HCA's board from the merger until May 1998.
MacNaughton, who was a lifelong Northeasterner until he joined HCA, also became active in community groups in his adopted hometown.
"Don brought to this company, and to me personally, the big picture, the global perspective-a little more visionary, as opposed to just building a business," Frist said.